Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: Balance

Traffic and Other Exhausting Problems with Living

No doubt, traffic is the worst thing about living in the Northeast, and the traffic in northeastern cities is unfathomable. To make matters worse, almost all of the city streets are one-way. When I am driving in the city, I am constantly circling the blocks, trying to find an arrow pointed in the direction that I want to go, and at least once per day, I make a mistake and pull into an alley or begin to edge down the wrong passage.

Image result for traffic on philadelphia street

When I finally get on the right street, I have to dodge the jaywalkers and then suddenly, without warning, some kook will stop and park–right in the middle of the street, and I am the car right behind him. Working myself out of that kind of buttonhole is definitely a challenge, and I have discovered that my life is filled with traffic, and I am continuously faced with the challenge of having to sort out my next best move.

Not long after I moved to the North, I accidentally got into the lines of traffic that were headed into the Holland Tunnel, and of course, that traffic only goes one way. I had driven to North Jersey to take my son to a camp, and I thought that I was headed back to South Jersey. I began to notice that the cars were moving slower and were edging closer and closer toward me. They had gotten uncomfortably close, and I realized that this was not the team huddle at the beginning of the football game. I sensed danger. I had never driven in New York City, and at that time, I hadn’t even driven much in Philadelphia. City traffic scared me to death. I reached a toll booth, and I am sure that fear was scrawled across my face and I timidly asked the lady at the booth, “Is this the way to Atlantic City?”

“Oh, No, Honey,” she chortled “This is the Holland Tunnel. You’re heading into New York City.”

I nearly cried. “Please, can you do anything to get me out of here?”

That saintly lady literally stopped the traffic and got me turned around. Just before I darted away, I explained, “I’m from Mississippi. We have cows, not cars,” and she laughed. The entire freeway rang with her laughter.

That was a close call, and unfortunately, I often find myself tangled in the webs of my own mistakes. The upside of this scenario, however, is that until now [knock on wood], I have always managed to survive. All of my life, I have heard that when cats fall, they always land on their feet. I never tested the theory, but I wonder if it is true, and I wonder whether this tidbit about cats is part of understanding a greater truth about life. Regardless of how wildly I spin through my own universe–regardless of how many times I flip and flail through the air–and regardless of how far I manage to fall, I always seem to land on my feet, too. When I finally learned to believe that things in life do tend to work out, I became calmer in simply living.

Worry is like a rocking chair. It requires a lot of work, and it gets you nowhere.

At times in my life, I have been a worrier. In fact, I still find myself being anxious too much of the time, but I am getting better. In my observation, worriers are afraid. While some people mask their emotions, I believe that beneath a control freak’s facade, there often lies a fear that at any moment, his entire world is going to implode.

Among other things, control freaks are perfectionists and are afraid of making mistakes, and because of that, they are terrified at the prospect of loosening the reins with which they control everything about themselves, including the people that surround them, and they tend to limit the amount of risks that they take.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein

Years ago, I was more of a perfectionist and I was more concerned with control than I am now. Controlling is an exhausting lifestyle.  In fact, mere survival can be fatiguing.  At times, I become exhausted by the energy it takes to simply persevere. I’m not fond of the idea of shooting myself or slicing my wrists and slowly bleeding out, but there have been times that I have thought that just maybe it would be nice if I could go to sleep peacefully one night and simply not re-awaken. But I always come back to the realization that living–even if it is only surviving–is a good thing.

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” – Agatha Christie

The good news is that we don’t have to be perfect. Absolute control is not necessary. It is not even good. A little chaos is actually a better thing than absolute control. Because of my creative nature, I have never been completely in control. Einstein makes me feel better about my being chaotic.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign? ” – Einstein

The control freak would look down upon the creative’s chaos, thinking that the chaotic is weaker than he, the one in control. In reality, it is the creative [his chaos and all] who should question those who cannot function without absolute order. I wonder about the strength of a person who can only function in limited, controlled environments.

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

While the orderly are excellent at attending to facts in their limited constructs, the creatives are the ones who invent those constructs. Without the inventiveness of the chaotic creative, the orderly businessman would have nothing to sell.

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

Inventing is a chaotic business.

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” ― Mary Shelley

And inventing requires a process of free-fall during which ideas spin and twist and contort, and sometimes, the ideas finally land on their feet. Yet, sometimes, they do not. Hear me: that is ok. It is ok that some of our ideas work and that others do not. Fear of making mistakes causes a painter to quit painting and it causes writer’s block. The victor is the person who can re-examine what he has done, toss some things away, and save the better stuff to polish into a pearl. This is an artist’s life and it is a writer’s life. Embrace the challenge. Face the traffic within your own life, and let yourself flow.

©Jacki Kellum May 25, 2017

“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that is where I renew my springs that never dry up.” Pearl S. Buck

 

Survive

People Become the Things That Drive Them

Every time that we repeat the phrase that clothes make the man, we are indirectly quoting Shakespeare, but Mark Twain also added another level of insight when he said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.” Regardless of how we say it, however, the reality is that the things that we value tend to define who we are.

Things are much different in the 21st Century than they were at the end of the 19th Century. At this time, I would like to add another amendment to the famous Shakespeare-Twain thoughts: “Men are also made by their automobiles.”

And unfortunately, we begin to look like the people and things that dominate our time.

People in my neighborhood walk their dogs, and over the years, I have begun to notice that many of those people have begun to look like their dogs.

While I am not sure that anyone in my neighborhood will win the next dog-owner look-alike contest, I can definitely see ways that the people around me are like their pets.

In my own life, my car and I have been to merge–we are becoming one.

honda_element_reverse

Not long ago, I saluted my old Honda Element, and I recounted some of the trips and journeys that my car and I have taken together.

Like me, my car is not fancy or frilly. When I went car shopping and bought my Honda, I said that I did not want carpet and that I wanted vinyl seats. My car and I go painting, and I often carry messy art supplies in her. I also carry garden plants and dirt her. I wanted my car to be like me–not afraid to get her hands dirty and not too proud to work and to sweat.

I have been driving my Honda Element for about fourteen years, and both my car and I have become old and worn now. As lines have begun to scrawl across my face and neck, my car’s seats have become webbed from wear. But my car and  I are not ashamed of our wrinkles and cracks. We are not pretentious. We are not embarrassed that we are not shiny new Mercedes Benzes, and we do not want to be Porsches. My car and I are not showy or flashy at all, but we have value. Our values lie on a different level than mere show and price tag.

People are known by the cars that they drive. When my car and I pull into the parking lot, we are easy to peg. “What you see is what you get.” By the same token, the people who are compelled to drive the newest and most expensive cars are also easy to assess. In most cases, they are the people who believe that outside appearances define them, and they are usually the people who do not place great stock on internal things.

In the Bible, Jesus came upon a  Pharisee who was pretentiously cleaning the outside of his plate and cup. In the time of Jesus, that was the thing to do, and even though the Pharisee made a spectacle of his precision in cleaning the outside of his eating implements, he did not clean the inside of his cup and platter; thus, he did not clean the important part, the part that touched the food. Jesus scolded the Pharisee:

Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Matthew 23:26

As I have already said, people become the clothes that they wear and the vehicles that they drive, but on a much deeper level, people also become what drives them. If a person is more driven toward the upkeep of his external appearances than he is to monitoring his inner character and the quality of his emotions, he becomes his exterior–he becomes a superficial person or a shell. If a person is driven to lie and to cheat and to back-stab to enable himself to buy more and more expensive things that he can wear and drive, a person becomes a liar and cheater. On the other hand, if a person places value in the quality of his thoughts and in his peace of mind and heart, and if he is not driven by the acquisition of more and more things, that person also reflects what drives him.

I believe that most people are driven by something, and I also believe that we need to carefully monitor what is driving us, lest we become those things  and not the humans that lie deep inside.

©Jacki Kellum October 2, 2016

Value

Which Do You Want – Money or Happiness? – Quotes about Money and Happiness

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“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf opened a can of worms in suggesting that in order to write, the writer must have already attained a reasonable amount of financial security. In addition, the writer must have time to write. Having both time and money simultaneously is not an easy thing to do. I always say that the American Dilemma is that we can work all of the time and have plenty of money but in doing so, we have no time to do what we want; or we can work at formal jobs as little as possible and have time to do what makes us happy, like writing, but we have no money to do what we enjoy. I represent the tail end of that dream, but by the grace of God, I do have a room of my own, and I have enough money to pay for the most basic needs of my life. For me, that has become enough.

I was able to retire early, and each month, I get a few coins from my retirement. In addition, I work a few hours a week as the storyteller for the toddlers at my library. I also get a few coins from that job. A coin here and a coin there, I survive. What’s wrong with that picture? I was the Valedictorian of my class. I probably should be doing better financially than I am. I should be banging my head against the wall and engaging in daily confrontations with co-workers and clients. I should be sitting at a desk. I should be on the conference call from Hell. I should be rich, but I am not. Yet, by the grace of God, I have enough money to get by, and I have found ways to enjoy the time that my lifestyle allows me.

When I was 20-years-old, I almost died in a car accident. That was long before I had begun to flourish, and that accident changed the course of my life. When I was 20-years-old, I became aware of the reality that life does not last terriby long for anyone, and for some people, life is short. I realized that I needed to spend more of my few remaining hours in this world doing things that I liked, and I never liked the business world or working nine to five in someone else’s office. I tried that route for a few years, but I got out of the rat race early, and many years ago, I began following a different path in life

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Being the arty type, some time ago, I elected to march to a cadence that is different than that which regulates the lives of most of the rest of the world. It is commonplace for artists to choose to live their lives a little differently. In doing so, we creatives tend to make choices that would not be esteemed as the popular ones. By the world’s standards, I have not lived up to my potential, but on the other hand, I have lived a life that has allowed me the time to smell life’s roses along the way.

Because of the nature of my open work week, I have enough time that I can allocate many hours toward whatever goal that I choose. I do work–in fact, my work day is at least 18-hours-long, but I don’t work in a formal job and in an office away from my home. From my own room, I write and I research for more writing. From my own studio, I paint. In my own yard, I garden. I stay very busy, but I don’t get paid dollar bills for 99% of what I do. I work to make enough money to survive, and I pay my bills. I spend most of my days writing and painting and gardening. When night time arrives, I rest my head, and I sleep.

Ashes to ashes–dust to dust–the money only helps us for a short portion of what will be our eternities. After that,  the money  is no better for us than the dust of the rest of our lives. I will not pretend that I don’t worry that when I am old, I will be a pauper. I don’t have everything figured out. To do that, I would have to be much smarter than I am. I have simply decided to live one day at a time, and that is about all that I can handle.

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I–I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

©Jacki Kellum September 26, 2016

Some other great quotes about the odd relationship between money and happiness:

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” ― Groucho Marx

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.” ― Will Rogers

“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.” ― Dorothy Parker

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” ― Oscar Wilde

Dilemma

The More We Give, the More We Receive – Why Blog? – Create to Discover New Ideas & New Creations

Yesterday, in my writing class, we talked about hoarding. I am not sure how the conversation began, but it quickly evolved into a discussion of the clutter that has amassed in all of our homes. Everyone agrees that the stuff that we hoard eventually strangles us and that we need to learn to let go. Many years ago, I read a short parable about the Dead Sea and about the damaging results of its refusal to give.

Two-Seas

The Parable of the Two Seas

“There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters. Along its shores the children play…..

The River Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. So it laughs in the sunshine. And men build their houses near to it, and birds their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.

The River Jordan flows on south into another sea. Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.

What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about.

This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine.” – Anonymous

The Bible talks about Giving:

“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

Initially, when I read the above scripture, I assumed that it was simply telling us to give of our money and of our groceries to actually provide those groceries for those around us. But I believe that the hunger and  the feeding in the Bible were about more than something that goes into our mouths. I believe that the Bible also talks about the pervasive hunger of the human spirit and of the needs of the soul.

William Blake was an English poet during the Romantic age of literature. He was a Christian, but he wrote about an emotional hunger that was broader than that described by most traditional Christians. In Blake’s early poems, The Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience, he contrasted the child’s spirit with that of the adult, saying that the adult had become hardened and insensitive and that the adult was no longer spiritual. I find it interesting that the Bible also speaks about the child.

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ ‘ Matthew 18:3

In Blake’s early poems, he was talking about more than childhood. Blake was talking about an emotional youth or spirituality.[I believe that the Bible is also talking about more than childhood]. Ultimately, William Blake described a Heaven and a Hell for people who either connect with their emotional spirituality or innocent imaginations or who choose not to connect with it. Blake said that the Imagination was the path to his Heaven, and he also wrote about a Christ-like figure Los, who was the embodiment of the Imagination. In Blake’s writing, the Imagination [Los] leads one to Heaven.

One may or may not accept that Blake’s teachings were Christian.

But Christianity is not the only religion that raises the issue of the needs of the hunger of the spirit or of the soul.

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I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists . . . .

Many of us identify with the statement: I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists.  If we substituted the words
“hungry” and “food,” we would probably also acknowledge that we are starving, too.

I am hungry for a food I am not sure even exists.

The Tao draws ideas from Buddhism, and the first of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that mankind lives in a state of yearning. The Buddhists believe that by aligning oneself with the Four Noble Truths, that yearning will cease, or at least, it will be lessened.

“Tao or Dao (/taʊ/, /daʊ/; Chinese: 道; pinyin: About this sound Dào (help·info)) is a Chinese word signifying ‘way’, ‘path’, ‘route’, or sometimes more loosely, ‘doctrine’ or ‘principle’. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of “life” that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one’s everyday being.” Wikipedia Here

[The Tao Te Ching–or the Dao–can be found in its entirety by Googling the words: Tao Te Ching. It is a beautiful writing.]

The Hindu religion talks about the soul. “Atman means ‘eternal self’. The atman refers to the real self beyond ego or false self. It is often referred to as ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ and indicates our true self or essence which underlies our existence.” From BBC Religions Here

I realize that I am over-simplifying all of these religious beliefs and schools of thought, but my main objective is to say that the Christians are not the only people who have identified a hunger and a need to be filled. I grew up as a Christian, and because I am slightly more comfortable talking about the Christain perspective, I return to the need to give, as it is discussed in the Bible. In an odd sort of way, I believe that humanity’s hunger has to do with the difficulty he has with giving:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

Again, I admit that this may be an over-simplification, but I believe that as we create, we give. Think about it: When we post to our blogs, we “share.” Creating is a way that we empty ourselves, and as we empty of ourselves, we allow space for another creation to begin.

The act of creating works like a bellows.

 

bellows-define

What Is A Bellows?

A bellows is a device that can be used to fan the flames and to build a larger fire. When the arms of a bellows are pulled apart, air is drawn into a bag. When the arms are squeezed shut, the air is rushed out, and the oxygen fans the flames. This increases the size of the fire.  Once the air has been emptied from the bag, the arms are pulled apart again, and fresh air is drawn back into the bag. When the arms are shut again, another blast of oxygen is expelled, and the flames leap higher. A bellows is sometimes called a blast bag.

Writing Is Like Using A Bellows

When we initially begin to write, our thoughts may be nothing more than a tiny flicker. Our thoughts need oxygen. We must fan our reflections to help them grow. We begin by pushing out the stale air which has been sitting inside our bags or our minds. When the whiff that was initially inside the bagblows out, the flame may flash for a second or two, but it needs more than a draft of stale, oxygenless air. Once the bag is empty, however, we can pull apart the bellows, and fresh ideas, renewed memories, and other invigorating thoughts will fill the bags of our minds. When we push that new bag of fresh air across the flickering light, the flames will begin to leap into the air. But in order to fill our bags with that vital and fresh oxygen, we must expel the insipid air that has been trapped inside.

Relate Using A Bellows and Creating to Emptying in the Teachings of Zen

The Full Teacup is a Zen story that illustrates the need for emptying. A man who was believed to be powerful and wise came to the Zen master to learn something new. Apparently, the student began by reciting to the master some of the things that he already knew. Apparently, he was trying to impress the master with the depth of his knowledge. After the Zen master listened for a moment, he said, “Let’ begin our session with a cup of tea.”

The master filled the student’s cup with tea, but he did not stop pouring. Tea flowed from the cup and ran across the floor. The student said, “Stop, the cup is full.”

The Zen master responded, “Exactly. Your mind is like the full cup of tea. I cannot teach you anything until you empty your mind and open yourself to something new.”

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 11

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.

When we sit down to write, we often feel that we have nothing new to say. That is because our minds are filled with stale, lifeless thoughts. Before we can begin to discover what we want to write, we must expel what is inside ourselves and we must create an empty space within our consciousnesses.

Please return to the idea of the Dead Sea, the body of water that does not empty of itself.

The Dead Sea – “Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.”

“What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie not the country about.

“This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.

“The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.

“The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

:There are two kinds of people in the world. There are two seas in Palestine.” – Anonymous

Allow me to add to this parable. There are also two kinds of thinkers. One type of thinker explores his thoughts and shares. In doing so, he is continuously emptying his thoughts through writing, through painting, or through producing music. Fresh ideas will continually flow inside the generous thinker’s mind, and the new ideas will replace what had previously been there. The other type of thinker will not empty of himself–he will not give. The thinker who hoards will not allow what is inside his head to flow outward. Therefore, his brain  becomes parched and dried. The grass is no longer green in this thinker’s mind, and the children no longer come to play. Nothing will change until the thinker allows what is inside himself to flow out.

We Must Create to be More Creative:

When we don’t give–when we don’t create–
We allow our inner selves to stagnate;
And stagnation leads to withering,
Which ultimately results in a type of death.
When we don’t create, we become like the Dead Sea. 

I often write about my reasons for blogging. For me, there is no money in blogging. I don’t blog to increase my wealth, but I do blog for other selfish reasons. I blog to empty my mind and to be re-invigorated through that emptying. I blog to control the chaos that results from the stagnation of too much information, and I blog to be blessed with something new to say. I would not say that I am a generous person. A generous person gives for no reason at all, and I do have a reason for giving through my creativity. I create to be more creative.

©Jacki Kellum September 23, 2016

Generous

No Time to Sit and Stare – Leisure – A Poem by William Henry Davies

Leisure
by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7_aXXnUcFQ

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